Author Archives: Californian Mum in London

About Californian Mum in London

Hey! I'm a California gal who moved to London in 2002 to be with my British bloke. Come read about my adventures living in London, being a Stay-At-Home-Mum, coping with a tea and cake addiction and trying to assimilate into British life. Don't know where I belong, but can't imagine living anywhere else.


If you're on Instagram, you've probably seen hundreds of posts from lavender farms all across the country. June, July and early August are the best times to visit. Take some family photos or capture your outfits in a beautiful environment. And if you live in south London, Mayfield is the nearest lavender farm.

We first visited Mayfield Lavender Farm four years ago, after Moozles finished her first year of school. I was looking back at the photos from this first visit because we had our third visit today. And how my little ones have changed. They really aren't so little anymore. My two were running around, trying to stay away from bees. At one point, they were both adamant they had been stung by the bees. They hadn't. But it can be quite daunting for children to see so many bees in one place. There are loads of bees, but they mostly keep to the lavender.

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And that's a wrap on another year of school. Moozles has finished Year Four, and Dubz has finished Reception. I can't believe my little baby has finished his first year of school. He has changed so much this year. But then, there is so much change that happens in these early years. Besides all the learning, there is so much confidence that comes from attending school. Dubz has been meeting new people, trying new things, eating new food. It has been a wonderful year for him. We can't wait for Year One!

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One of the things I miss most about living in the UK is that I miss the wonderful 4th of July celebrations in the USA. You get a day off to spend with your friends and/or family, eat BBQ and other delicious food and then finish the day with fireworks. I have only been to one expat BBQ in 15 years, and it is really tough to celebrate the day when it isn't often on a weekend. But this year, Jackson + Rye invited me and some friends to celebrate the 4th of July.

I grabbed my two favourite American expat friends (strangely, I know quite a few expats in my neighbourhood), and off to lunch we went. We would have loved to have our 4th of July meal on the actual fourth of July, but it was Sports Day, so we had our celebration on the fifth of July. Besides the joy of a mid-week meal, it was lovely going out for cocktails and great food with wonderful girlfriends.

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We have never taken my son on an airplane (although his big sister has flown all around the world), as he has always been a handful. In May, we went for our first overseas holiday as a family of four. We had decided to go to France, and take Brittany Ferries as it would mean we could take our car plus we could better control our five year old son. I thought that sailing to France from the UK would be the easy travel option, but it turned out to also be the fun option.

I have to say that the kids and I weren't sure what to expect on the ferry. Luckily, the Brittany Ferries website has plenty of information and even videos of the ships. Dubz made me watch the videos about 20 times. His mind was blown to be travelling on a ship so big it could fit cars and beds and restaurants. But the ferry fits all those things and more.

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A few weeks ago, I was invited to view the new Olive and Orange collection for Halfords. Orla Kiely has added her love of 1960s prints onto bicycles and on camping and picnic gear. And the latest collection has three new prints. And as Halfords held the event at Claridge's, we were able to enjoy afternoon tea while drooling over the bike of dreams and the loveliest camping gear I've ever seen.

I am a big fan of mid-century designs. I love the prints and aesthetics. Orla Kiely is known for her wonderful designs and the thought of making outdoor items (like bikes and tents) stylish is music to my ears. But it's not just a pretty design, these items have been designed with quality in mind. I had a little nosy online, and there's a beautiful gazebo as well. Now, I just need to convince my husband that I need the entire range. Wish me luck!

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Riverside Dining at Jackson & Rye in Kingston

Oh, I do like to be beside the riverside. And if I can be sitting by the river, enjoying some delicious food, then even better. My new favourite riverside restaurant in Kingston-upon-Thames is Jackson & Rye. And I don't just like the location. The food is pretty damn tasty too.

As an American expat, I am always keen to try a restaurant that claims to serve American fare. But normally I'm left with overpriced burgers or non-fluffy pancakes. You can't imagine how a disappointing pancake can ruin my day. That is obviously a personality flaw. But rather than seek counselling, I've decided to just focus on finding better restaurants. Jackson & Rye definitely fits the bill.

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When you tell young children that you'll be spending the day at a garden, you will see the terror in their eyes. Their lips may even quiver at the thought of looking at flowers and not spending the day at the playground. So when I told the kids that the four of us were spending the day at The Savill Garden, they were not enthused. Fast forward a few hours, when driving home, and both agreed that they had had loads of fun. So let me tell you why an ornamental garden can be such a fun family day out.

The Savill Garden is utterly beautiful. Located in Windsor Great Park, there are 35 acres of woodland in addition to the gardens. There are different areas, including the Summer Gardens, Autumn Wood and Winter Beds. Although we had a map, we just wandered around throughout the various interconnected garden areas. And I spent a lot of time smelling the roses, literally.

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Looking at me you might be surprised to learn that I experienced hair loss after both pregnancies. And while I naturally have a lot of hair, it never went back to my pre-pregnancy abundance. I noticed some shedding during and after my first pregnancy, but it wasn't too bad. It was after my second child that I really noticed a problem. I didn't realise that hair loss and motherhood can go hand in hand, so I wanted to share some insight.

A few months after Dubz was born, I noticed that loads of hair started breaking off. Apparently this can be due to a reduction in one's oestrogen levels. Normally, by your child's first birthday, your hair will return to its full glory. This was not the case for me. For a few years, I had these short, broken hairs sticking out of the top of my bed. I used to crop the top of my head in photos as it perturbed me greatly. I felt like I was the only one going through this and didn't really talk to my friends about my hair insecurities.

It wasn't until Dubz turned four that my hair started to get back to normal. It took years for the damaged hair to grow back. One reason for this may be due to my Vitamin D deficiency. This was another issue that began during my second pregnancy. Pregnancy is much more than just having a baby. There are so many physical changes that happens to one's body, and many of us are not prepared.

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When I think of a family meal, I think of lots of yummy food in the middle of the table and everyone helping themselves. But normally, when you go to a restaurant, everyone gets their own meal. Though sometimes I end up sharing my dessert (against my will, of course). But Prezzo have brought the family-style spirit from our homes to their restaurants with the new La Famiglia menu.

Simply, 'la famiglia' is Italian for 'family'. The name says it all. It is a meal fit for a family. When our generous plate of spaghetti bolognese arrived, the kids oohed. They were so excited by such a big dish. And when the waiter handed Dubz the tongs to serve the pasta, he was thrilled. Imagine being five years old and being in charge of the food. With some help from his daddy, Dubz served us our spaghetti.

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For the May half-term, we packed a week's worth of clothes, got into the car and drove to France. Okay, there might have been more to this. Like spending weeks looking at which Eurocamp holiday parc would best suit our family and then researching what one needs for a Eurocamp holiday as well as what you need for driving in France. And obviously you have to book the ferry. If you try driving straight to France, you will literally be swimming with the fishes.

I must note that this was our first holiday abroad as a family of four. Dubz, who has just turned five, has always been quite crazy a handful. But he has calmed down in the past year and we got him his first passport in May. We also thought that travelling by ferry would be a good way to ease into a holiday (I reckon we will be brave enough for plane travel in a few months).

So anyway, after much deliberation, we chose La Garangeoire in the Vendee (on the west coast of central France). I had read that there is better weather there than the northern parts of France, plus it requires much less driving to than the south of France. And we were not disappointed. While it did drizzle a couple of mornings, the weather was mostly sunny and warm. We had an amazing week at La Garangeoire, and I wanted to show you what a holiday looks like when every member of the family proclaims it to be 'the best holiday ever'.

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